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Performing Okinawan Tamashī: The Contributions of Eisā to Building Youth Community in Southern California


This thesis explores the ways in which eisā, practiced and performed by the Ryūkyūkoku Matsuri Daiko - Los Angeles Branch (RMD-LA) is significant for the community building and cultural perpetuation of the Okinawan American youth community in Southern California. While a global art form, eisā in Southern California has been greatly overlooked because of Japanese American community hegemony, rooted in longer legacies of colonialism, militarism, and imperialism. I trace the history and transformation of eisā as it traveled from Okinawa to the United States while simultaneously attempting to fill a gap in the literature of both eisā and the Okinawan American community in Southern California. I draw upon interviews with six prominent leaders and members of RMD-LA to examine major themes that encourage community building and cultural perpetuation within the community. Lastly, I put into conversation how a gap in the literature and the dedication of eisā practitioners manifest on Southern California stages in a choreographic analysis of RMD-LA’s 25th anniversary show entitled “Gajumaru.” Through this performance, an alternative way of history-making and history-learning is enacted as Okinawan history is remembered, reproduced, and transmitted.

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